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Imperial Presidency

The Imperial Presidency is a term which has been used from the 1960s to describe the presidency of the United States and the President's aides. It was based on a number of observations.

Critics suggested that the range of new bodies, the importance of the Chief of Staff and in particular the large number of people, created a virtual 'royal court' around the President, members of which were not answerable to anyone but the President and on occasions allegedly acted independent of him also.

Critics of the Imperial Presidency theory counteract by arguing that

The presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were particularly described as surrounded by 'courts', where junior staffers acted on occasions in contravention of executive orders or Acts of Congress. The activities of some Nixon staffers during the Watergate affair are often held up as an example. Under Reagan (1981-1989) the role of Colonel Oliver North in the facilitation of funding to the Contras in Nicaragua, in explicit contravention of a United States Congressional ban, has been highlighted as an example of a "junior courtier's" ability to act, based on his position as a member of a large White House staff. Howard Baker, who served as Reagan's last Chief of Staff, was critical of the growth, complexity and apparent unanswerability of the presidential 'court'.